The Jets offensive line has taken its share of heat this season, and for good reason. Perhaps the facet of the game in which the group has struggled the most is in the run game.
To try and get a grasp on how the Jets offensive line has stacked up in the run blocking category, I decided to compare the New York offense to the rest of the NFL in a very particular statistic - ratio of rushing first downs (which includes touchdowns) to stuffs (carries for 2 yards or less and no first down).
While an imperfect measure, this can give us a good grasp at how well each team’s offensive line has produced positive runs compared to negative ones.
Here is a look at how the league checked in through thirteen weeks of action.
You can see the Jets placed 31st in the league. They are currently ranked 3rd in the league in stuffed runs with 141, while they have only collected 66 rushing first downs, which ranks 27th. In turn, their 0.468:1 first down to stuff ratio is worse than every team except for the Vikings.
NFL teams are running the football less than they ever have before, with the average team collecting 25.7 attempts per game on average this season. However, with that decreased volume has come a new all-time peak in efficiency, as the league average rushing attempt this season has yielded an all-time record 4.4 yards. The football is being run less, but the standards of what the average run should produce are rising, as offensive efficiency ticks upward across all facets of the game.
I thought it was notable that 10 of 12 teams that currently own a winning record have an above average ratio. While the cliche has been that the NFL is increasingly becoming a passing league (which is very true), one fact that tends to be forgotten is that success in the run game is an essential tool for setting up the passing game for success. Each of the top seven and eight of the top ten current scoring offenses in the NFL have an above average ratio in the above chart.
There seems to be some solid correlation between the above list and (perceived) overall offensive line quality. The results above generally compare closely with Pro Football Focus’ offensive line rankings.
It definitely appears that having a successful rushing attack, and more importantly, a strong run blocking offensive line to spring it, is still extremely important in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Jets, their front has not been able to put forth quality play in the ground game this year. Building up a group that punish in this phase, like the unit they fielded nearly a decade ago, will be one of the most essential tasks for the front office to accomplish in this coming offseason and beyond.